The October of extreme bullpen management theory continued with Game 5 between the Dodgers and Nationals on Thursday night. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was faced with dilemmas encountered by three other managers, and he navigated it well enough to win.
Roberts wanted to avoid Buck Showalter’s mistake (never using his best reliever in an elimination game), but he didn’t have multiple relief horses to quite emulate Terry Francona (using his best relievers well before their traditional situations arose), especially since he had to cover the last 61⁄3 innings.
Roberts pushed Kenley Jansen to his limit. He deployed his closer with no outs and a runner on first in the seventh inning, which turned into runners on the corners and one out after a Bryce Harper single. Jansen escaped with a strikeout (after an intentional walk). He then walked the leadoff man in the eighth, but the Nats botched a bunt and couldn’t get any further (corrected).
Jansen then started the ninth with a strikeout, but his control left him afterward. He walked Harper and Jayson Werth on 10 pitches between them, pushing him to 51 with two outs remaining. Now Roberts was in a Bruce Bochy situation — who to use after a closer without losing all sense of order?
He went to the guy who wasn’t supposed to be available:
What my book presupposes is . . . what if Clayton Kershaw IS available tonight? pic.twitter.com/DO8tDaQqT7— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) October 13, 2016
After using his best reliever until he had nothing left, he used his best pitcher on one day’s rest. Kershaw delivered, getting Daniel Murphy to pop out and
Anthony Rendon Wilmer Difo to strike out, bringing an end to the longest nine-inning postseason game in MLB history (a ridiculous four hours and 32 minutes).
Fun stuff, unless you’re a Nationals fan, or a Dodger fan with a stress-related condition. This is why Rick Hahn wondered aloud whether teams in the postseason could use a starter who doesn’t leave so many outs to cover:
"People tend to perhaps overreact to small samples in October," Hahn said. "But I'm guessing, based on how things have gone so far ... we expected a lot of calls heading into the offseason, and this probably only reinforces that idea."
Speaking of managers, the biggest problem with the Rick Renteria hiring is that they announced it in the middle of Robin Ventura’s funeral.
The White Sox were proud enough of their decision that they willfully exposed themselves to deserved criticism by skipping the interview process once again. Yet they couldn’t quite trumpet his arrival since he was already there and, for a year, a party to the one they were trying to put to rest. Without any time to separate the two, the White Sox introduced Renteria while on the defensive, which might’ve used up all his honeymoon period in the first 10 minutes of the press conference.
This hit me while watching a video the White Sox released touting Renteria on Thursday. There’s no particular reason to be skeptical about it:
"Everybody is still learning. The thing is, can you give them something that will help in the moment?" – Rick Renteria pic.twitter.com/o1MNEoIJD5— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) October 13, 2016
The part that stuck out to me most was the "only family can rip family" part at 1:50. I assume that’s meant to establish a chain of command and a reminder of whose criticism needs to be heeded, but I can see that manifesting itself as being oversensitive to outside attacks if things go poorly.
If this was Sandy Alomar Jr. or Ron Washington or anybody else on the credible managerial candidate spectrum, I’d take it as a mission statement from a guy who has legitimate ideas about how things should be run, rather than something trying to cover up the weird aftertaste from the media conference. Renteria is qualified enough to get a clean slate. One of these days, the White Sox will be able to make typical decisions without making everything unnecessarily difficult.
And just as I hit "publish," this happens:
Joe McEwing becomes bench coach, Nick Capra takes over as third base coach and Curt Hasler is new bullpen coach: https://t.co/hKIKACIlfP— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) October 14, 2016
A separate post is coming.